Stay healthy, by land or by water

Low-impact exercises such as water aerobics, dancing and gardening help aging adults stay fit and active.

If your idea of moving doesn’t include jogging or doing reps in the weight room, can you get health benefits by doing less vigorous activities?

Yes, experts say.

You can find activities that you actually enjoy doing and that also aid your wellbeing, according to Dr. Andrew Duxbury, geriatrician, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

He suggests social dancing, golf or water exercise.

“Water exercise is well known to be good for people with arthritis in the hips or knees,” Duxbury says.

Even routine chores, such as housework, may count as physical activity.

“The bending and lifting will help,” Duxbury says.

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Your hobbies also can be your activity. Take gardening, for instance. You’re pulling weeds, digging up flowerbeds and hauling dirt.

“Gardening can easily be considered a moderate activity,” says Bradley J. Cardinal, Ph.D., professor of exercise and sport science, Oregon State University, Corvallis.  “With gardening, you’re working your legs, your upper back, your arms, bending and getting up,” Cardinal says.

In fact, gardening and walking are the two most prominent activities reported by older adults, he says. There are caveats, however, even if you’re having fun.  Make sure the activity is a safe one, suitable for your general condition.

“Be aware of your capacity and don’t overdo it,” Cardinal says.

Breaking activities into several short time spans can be less taxing, especially if you have a health condition that limits your movement.  Cardinal’s recent research suggests that short bouts of exercise that add up to 30 minutes a day can be beneficial.

“If you have rheumatoid arthritis, doing small amounts during the day may make the activity a little more bearable; less uncomfortable,” the Oregon State expert says.

“I wouldn’t discourage people from doing something they enjoy,” Cardinal adds.


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